Last year I tagged along A Wok Around Chinatown Food Tour and gave it praise for its cultural value and history lessons, not to mention the amazing dim sum. It quickly won me over and I proclaimed it the best food tour in Vancouver. This may have been premature as I didn’t realize A Wok Around Chinatown offers a Granville Island food tour, one that takes guests behind the scenes of one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist attractions.
This is my Wok Around Granville Island Food Tour review and why I think it great for visitors and locals alike.
What Granville Island Means To Me
Before moving to Vancouver, a visit to Granville Island sold me on the city. This massive market within a city was unlike anything I had seen in Canada. With that visit, I started to look at property in the neighbouring Fairview Slopes area. I envisioned picking up fresh groceries daily for that night’s tasty creation. Although I didn’t end up near Grandville Island, I did end up in Vancouver and a short bike rides away. As such, I frequent the market. A lot.
Still, with years of market runs under me, I knew nothing of Granville Island beyond it being a great place to pick up fresh ingredients. With that in mind, I enlisted the help of Robert Sung and his Wok Around Granville Island food tour. Let’s tuck in.
From Sandbar to City Highlight
We met up with Robert under the Granville Island Bridge and in front of the iconic sign that welcomes some 12 million visitors each year. There, Robert filled us in on the history behind the small parcel of land in False Creek. Once a sandbar that made a great fishing ground for the First Nations, the land was eventually reclaimed and connected to the shore. In the early 1900’s it became an “industrial island“ with a mechanic shop being its first tenant. Today, the building of that very shop remains as part of the public market.
Over the following decades, the area saw a rise and fall in production with the island being completely occupied by 1923 then falling into disarray after the Great Depression. The Second World War saw a resurgence in industrial use but a fire in 1953 once again left the island in hard times. It wasn’t until a government investment in the 1970s that helped the island turn around and become the bustling tourist attraction it is today.
Where Food and Culture Meet – Granville Island Food Tour
As you step inside the busy market, Robert’s personality begins to shine. He is well known with the vendors and is quick to share a smile and a story or two. This theme continues throughout the day and speaks to the value this tour has for not only its guests but the community as well.
Our first stop was Seafood City, a long-standing seafood vendor that features the best of British Columbia’s waters and beyond. Aside from in-season seafood, this shop imports delicacies from the world-famous Tsukiji Market in Tokyo! This is a very fitting start to the tour as it highlights the cultural diversity that is Vancouver. Fittingly, this diversity is best experienced through its food.
There we chatted with Brian, a second-generation owner, and sampled candied salmon, a First Nations treat that was once prepared on the very spot we were touring. Robert and Brian filled us with seafood knowledge I had no idea about.
Things like the Dungeness Crab served in San Francisco actually come from Haida Gwaii, an island chain in Northern British Columbia. Also, the origin of my favourite oyster, Kushi, is actually Japan. I mean, the name should have given this away but still, my mind was blown…and this was only our first stop.
Diverse Food That Feeds A Diverse City
Stories and fun facts followed us through our Granville Island food tour, as did this cultural diversity. We sampled true French macaroons at Bon Macaron Patisserie and incredible Masala chai at the Granville Island Tea Company which rivals the tea I had while touring India.
Throughout it all Robert asks “have you had…“ and “have you tried…“ His passion for great food is contagious and he is quick to fill you with recipe tips and ideas. Being a former chef, you will have menu ideas for months after this tour.
Then there was sampling local and exotic fruit readily available and perfectly on display. Here, Robert made a simple sounding apple fascinating and that much more delicious.
Also, throughout the day Robert makes an effort to keep a culinary conversation and discussion going. “What would you pair with this?“ is a common question. It truly makes for tasty dialogue, foodie or not.
Beyond The Market
Bellies full on everything from British Columbia cheese to French macaroons, the conversation and tour shifts to the markets surrounding buildings. On the island, you’ll find everything from craft beer and dumplings to artisan brooms straight out of Harry Potter. You will also find plenty of entertainment with buskers performing daily, an improv comedy club, and a theatre. Visitors that are looking for the full experience can even stay on the island thanks to the very popular Granville Island Hotel.
At the Artisan Sakemaker we sampled sake made from the most northern ricefield in the world. There, Robert continued to share his favourite restaurants and food tips. Again, you will have no shortage of ideas on where to eat next and go while visiting Vancouver. Even as a local, I walked away with plenty of places to try and a better understanding of what makes Vancouver a world-class foodie city. It’s people like Robert that truly bring this out and why tours like his are so valuable to visitors or not.
- READ MORE: Sampling Sake in Kyoto, Japan
See (And Eat!) For Yourself
After another filling afternoon out with Robert, I can once again say with confidence that he offers some of the best tours in the city. This Granville Island food tour is no different.
His passion for food and the city he calls home shines through. It makes this local love his home that much more. Don’t just take my word for it though, his Granville Island food tour has a perfect five-star rating on TripAdvisor!
How to Book Your Granville Island Food Tour
To book your own Wok Around Granville Island food tour with Bob, check out his website or book directly through Tripadvisor. Don’t forget to tell him Shaun from thislifeintrips.com says hi!
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Although I was provided with a complimentary Wok Around Granville Island Food Tour,
the opinions, full belly, and newfound local insight are my own.
What foods are famous in this place?